Is Ryanair's new hand luggage fee unfair? Italian watchdog opens inquiry

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Is Ryanair's new hand luggage fee unfair? Italian watchdog opens inquiry
From November, Ryanair wants to charge passengers for bringing anything more than a handbag into the cabin. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP

Italy's competition authority Antitrust has opened an inquiry into low-cost airline Ryanair's decision to charge passengers for hand luggage, which the body described an "essential" item for travellers.


From November, non-priority customers of the no-frills airline will only be allowed to take one "small personal bag", such as a handbag or laptop case, into the plane's cabin as long as it can fit under the seat in front. They will be charged if they want to take on a 10kg holdall or suitcase.

Hand luggage is "an essential element of transport" so Ryanair, and all other carriers, should include the price in the cost of a plane ticket, Antitrust said in a statement cited by the Italian press.

The new Ryanair policy could amount to unfair commercial practice in that it distorts the final price of the ticket and does not allow a true comparison with other airlines' prices, according to Antitrust.

Ryanair announced last month that customers who want to bring more than a small bag into the cabin will have to pay extra charges ranging up to €9.

Italian consumer associations had complained to Antitrust about the Ryanair decision.

"If its unfair commercial practice on hand luggage is confirmed, Ryanair ... should reimburse all its customers who suffer unfair additional costs," the association Codacons said in a statement, promising to take the matter to court if necessary.

The Italian inquiry heaps even more negative publicity on Ryanair whose shareholders on Thursday delivered a blow to the airline's chairman amid widespread strike action by European staff that has rattled confidence in the company.

Chairman David Bonderman was re-elected but only with 70.5 percent of the vote at the annual general meeting -- a drop from last year's assembly where he garnered a 89.1 percent endorsement.

"Questions about the company's business model and governance now pose a threat to shareholder value," said the chairman of one of the shareholders, the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum.  



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